Manchester United vs Arsenal | Sunday 17 May | Old Trafford | 17:00
The last blockbuster fixture of the English Premier League calendar features old rivals Manchester United against Arsenal in a cracking contest at the Theatre of Dreams. Earlier this campaign, Louis van Gaal’s side clinched a 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium, while last season's corresponding fixture also ended in favour of the Red Devils with ex-Arsenal hero Robin van Persie scoring the only goal of the match. The Gunners did manage to get their revenge when the teams met in the FA Cup back in March with former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck netting the winner in a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford. United will move a point ahead of Arsenal in the league standings if they beat the Gunners and, though Arsene Wenger's men still have a game in hand, they’ll want to rebound quickly after their eleven-game unbeaten run came to an end on Monday.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester United 27/20
Manchester United claimed their first win in four matches last weekend after beating Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park. They have Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini to thank for the goals and a Man of the Match performance by Ashley Young, who starred after the news that exciting Dutch winger Memphis Depay will be joining the club this summer. The win over Palace and Liverpool’s draw with Chelsea means, barring a miraculous collapse, United will take their place at European football’s top table again and although it lessens the pressure on Sunday’s game against Arsenal, Van Gaal will still want all three points. The Red Devils had been in good form at home apart from their hiccup in their last meeting at Old Trafford which ended in a 1-0 defeat to West Brom. Prior to that loss, United had won six on the spin and will be eager to end the campaign on a high as they look to avenge their FA Cup elimination dealt by Arsenal earlier in the season.
United fans will have to take some encouragement from the fact that they have done all right in the big games in the league this season. They have already beaten Arsenal and Liverpool, drawn with Chelsea, and ousted Manchester City 4-2. In recent weeks, United have set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Young provides the wing play from the left, and Mata gives creativity from the right. Back in the middle, Fellaini’s physicality is a huge asset and he is very much capable of going forward while Ander Herrera offers plenty of options for both him and Mata to use. Mata’s form has blossomed as he works behind talisman Wayne Rooney in attack. The Spaniard's key strength is his vision to see a pass and the ability to pick the pass out. His precision, his accuracy, the intelligence of his movement and distribution has helped bring out the best, too, in Young and Fellaini. Van Persie has had a frustrating season with the striker either suffering from injury or struggling to get into top gear. He’d love nothing more than to start against Arsenal, so that he can give the manager a significant reminder of what he’s still capable of.
Arsenal have only themselves to blame for letting their long unbeaten record slip at the Emirates on Monday night. They had the chances to win the game but squandered them before poor defending allowed Swansea to secure a 1-0 win. The Gunners entered the match in full control of the race for second place. Trailing Manchester City by three points with two games in hand, the Gunners simply had to win all four remaining games to claim second spot behind champions Chelsea. After Monday's defeat, that is no longer the case. Even with a victory against United, Arsenal would still have to make up a considerable deficit in goal differential in order to overtake City. Before the match, the Gunners had won nine and drawn one of their last ten matches – and although a second-place finish seems unlikely all of a sudden – the Gunners will be eager to win their remaining matches and lift their own FA Cup trophy at the end of the month. Arsenal come into the clash in excellent away form with five successive victories and will take some motivation from West Brom’s victory at Old Trafford two weeks ago.
Santi Cazorla has been one of the biggest reasons behind Arsenal’s resurgence in the second half of the season. His nimble feet enable him to skip away from defenders in the midfield mire, while his vision allows him to pick penetrative passes from deep. Along with Mesut Ozil, he forms the creative hub at the heart of this Arsenal side. Alexis Sanchez is the most potent player in the Arsenal squad in front of goal. The Chilean moves through the gears at pace, with his close control and superb skill meaning he can beat players and take Arsenal up the pitch within seconds. His mobile play and diagonal movement is a nightmare for defenders which makes it literally impossible to man mark him. Misfiring striker Olivier Giroud hasn’t found the net since Arsenal’s 4-1 disposing of Liverpool – four games ago. That could pave the way for former Manchester United forward Welbeck to earn a surprise start against his boyhood club. Having netted the winner in their last meeting – the Englishman will be raring for an opportunity to repeat that feat.
VERDICT: Manchester United - To Win and Both Teams to Score 33/10
This fixture always produces goals and with the wealth of attacking talent on show and the relative weakness of both defences, there should be goalscoring chances at either end, making the Both Teams to Score Market good value at 13/20. With that being said, United boast a better head-to-head record against the Gunners having won eleven of their last sixteen meetings with three draws and just two defeats. Back the Red Devils to win plus both teams to score on the Matchbet market for greater value at 33/10.